Disclaimer: Death Note and all related characters all the property of Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata, Shueisha, and Viz. This story is for entertainment, non-profit purposes only. Please don't sue me, I'm just a poor college student practicing her writing.
Tagline: Nate River never saw a reason to believe in heaven or hell. He could not, however, so easily dismiss a boy named Mihael. One-shot. Implied MelloxNear. Entire series spoilers.
Note: Not a songfic, but certainly named after the song. Listen to it while you read; the lyrics are poignant. This story contains spoilers for Chapter 108 and onward. Read at your own risk.
Tears in Heaven
Nate River had gone by many names over the years, and yet he often felt that none really suited him quite the way he would have liked. Most recent had been the addition of a new code name, L, along with the sub-categorical personas of Erald Coil, Danuve, and a few others that he had developed on his own. L was fine when it came to work, but it lacked a personal feel to it. Nate wasn't sure why that bothered him, given his pre-disposition to sitting alone in corners twirling his hair. But it did bother him, and as the years passed he had stopped questioning the feeling and simply let it remain, buried, festering.
And so it did remain, like other feelings he had taken a few moments out to classify and then toss aside over the course of his life. Feelings, that went by other names, all blank and invisible letters that identified him by face but not by heart.
N, another name, was an older façade than L. N was the product of a child trying to become a man, yet not quite sure if he wanted to leave the crib just yet. And with that letter came many memories, mostly of darkened rooms and television cameras, which seemed starkly familiar to Nate. N had been born, and had died, in desperate times, during a dark age of humanity.
And then there was one even older name, one which had truly been a child's name, a boy's name. Near, they had called him, at the orphanage. He remembered children crowding around him, watching him set a puzzle, hands mussing his goose white hair until it looked as though it hadn't been combed that day. Near, they called him, because of how he squinted to see everything around him with pale and translucent blue eyes.
Some still called him that – those who knew who he really was. Those individuals were few at this point. Some were aging, and had little contact with Nate. Some had already died of old age.
And some had died for other reasons.
Nate didn't have to think hard to remember the number of people who actually called him by his birth name. There was a woman at the orphanage, Nancy, who had looked after him, gave him baths and washed his hair, tried to breathe life into a lifeless child. She had died years ago from a heart attack that hadn't been criminal, but simply sad.
There was another woman, too, with pale blond hair which curled in odd directions when twirled. His mother seemed like a reflection on worn asphalt, like the occasional ray of light cast from broken glass and bottles under the glare of a setting sun. He didn't remember his father at all, but knew he had been there, somewhere. They, his family, had been ground away from the pounding of the years on the road of his life.
Nate didn't like to think about the remaining two people. Their faces were all too fresh in his mind, blurry near-sighted shadows of voices which had laughed and talked with him into many late hours of many late nights.
He had taken a name from one of them. Nate wondered, sometimes, what Ryuzaki thought of him now, and whether he considered Nate a proper successor to the name of L. He would often ponder that idea, mind caught in a loop, until something snapped in his chest, and it hurt, and he had to stop thinking about it altogether. He liked to think that Ryuzaki would be proud of him, but he was never really sure. A dead man couldn't be questioned, and Ryuzaki had died far too young for Nate's liking.
Nate really didn't like to think about the other person, the boy with the chin length blond hair and the crooked, cynical smile. He had thought about him enough, and the knife had already been driven deep. That boy hadn't lived long, either. Just short of twenty years; so close to becoming a man in status, yet already a man in heart. Dead for a just cause, but dead all the same.
Twenty. It was as though the age was a detour, a side street towards the afterlife. Nate had been surprised that he had even reached his twentieth birthday. Then twenty had become twenty-five, then thirty, and he had stopped wondering why everyone else had died, and began to wonder why he hadn't yet.
And he wondered, always wondered, if he was destined to be alone. Alone, just a letter on a computer screen, a faceless soul that had no home or family. Nate wasn't quite sure if there was a heaven or hell, but he did know that he had never seen a ghost, or a dead man brought back to life. In a lonely world of data and computer screens, that was little comfort.
He would always be, he feared, just a name.
Two days before his thirty-second birthday, Nate found his questions still unanswered, and his life cut suddenly short in the form of a faulty 747 engine. He watched, silently, as the passenger plane began to tip and dive towards the ocean, an hour after the engines had cut out unexpectedly. In the seat beside him, an older woman, who had white hair much like his own, screamed and buried her head in her lap.
"Why?" She sobbed softly, having said little previously. "Why now? Why me?"
"Because it's time," Nate said quietly, unsure where the words were coming from. "Because we all live, and we all die. That, of anything in life, is predictable."
The woman turned and gazed at him with hazel eyes, the corners wrinkled by age. "Tell that to my children and grandchildren! My husband! Oh God . . . how can you be so calm? Don't you have any regrets at all?"
It seemed so absurd, debating life a few thousand feet above death.
"Yes. I wish I had died a long time ago." The woman moved to speak, but Nate held up a hand and placed it against her lips. "Because it would have been better than being left behind."
She wouldn't understand, he knew. She was already curling up again, tears streaming down her face. And the pressure in the plane was ever building, the force of the downward acceleration dragging at his consciousness, pulling at his vision, turning the world black.
Perhaps he was in shock. But then, he had been expecting to die for a long time, and was prepared for it. He had accepted his fate the day he had taken on the name of L.
He wondered, briefly, if Ryuzaki had felt the same as the woman when he had died. Not as one who was left behind, but as one who left behind others. Mourning not for himself, but for everything he didn't finish. For the people who would have to live without him.
He wondered if Mello had also felt the same, had cried because he was leaving things behind.
Yet, how useless was it to even think about that now? They weren't the ones left to survive. Their pain had lasted only a moment, only to disappear with their heart beats. They weren't hurting. They weren't constantly reminded of what had been taken from them. They couldn't wish that things would change, only to discover that they couldn't.
They were just gone.
Nate felt something wet on his cheeks, and realized he was crying. And he realized, as he glanced out the window and saw the water mere hundreds of feet below, that it was over. Terminal velocity caught up to everyone eventually, and it had finally found him.
He closed his eyes and waited. But where the impact of the water should have been was instead a profound feeling of peace, a parting of a soft pool that took him in as if he weighed nothing. It was the same kind of feeling, he thought sleepily, which came with eating chocolate. Yet there was no chocolate on the plane, and all he could think of to explain the odd occurrence was that something was reaching out to him. Something, when he needed it most, was there for him.
In the last moment of his life, when the dark finality of death stared him in the face, Nate River wished that he had been wrong about his life – and that perhaps, just perhaps, he could open his eyes one last time.
He awakened to the gentle trilling of birds, the sound drifting along with a warm summer breeze that lapped at his face and eyelids. He stirred, thoughts blurry, and wondered why there were cotton sheets covering his body. The plane hadn't had any blankets.
Groaning, Nate opened his eyes, and then squeezed them quickly shut, pained, against the light streaming into the room through an open window. He waited for his eyes to adjust, then cracked them open again, letting in a small shimmer of sun. As the shock faded, he pushed himself upward on a bed that seemed vaguely familiar, and looked around.
Nate shook his head, confused, and laughed at the oddness of it all. He hadn't been to The Wammy's House for years, not since Nancy's funeral. Yet here it was around him, exactly as he remembered. He glanced down at himself, found hands that seemed thinner, legs that were too short, a body that was too young, and realized something truly was not right.
For a brief moment, Nate wondered if he had dreamt away twenty years of his life, only to wake up and find himself stuck in the past. But there was too much of it for that to be the case, painted with an impressionist's brush to his mind, too vivid to be any kind of dream. If anything, the world he was in now seemed more like a dream than the one he had left. Or perhaps the plane ride had been a dream too, and this was simply a strange continuation.
That thought refused to leave him, and he found himself shaking lightly under the sheets which had fallen to his legs. He drew them up to his chin, but found little comfort in the soft threat-work. He knew, with an odd and horrid certainty, that the eyes he had opened were a figment of his mind, and that he had not really awakened from anything.
He shuddered, and wrapped his arms and the sheets about himself, unsure of where the sudden chill had come from. He felt warm, and yet, not so. And the room seemed empty, too empty for what he remembered. It was like a photograph, yet lacking the one thing that would make it whole.
Nate turned his head then, inexplicably, and felt his gaze meet the deep blue eyes of another individual seated on the other bed in the room. A boy, head covered in chin length blond hair, stared back at him, expression unreadable.
It was absurd. He felt the sheets slipping from his hands back to the bed, where they rested in a lifeless pile of cloth. White cloth, the kind draped on a coroner's table, the kind that always had a dead body underneath.
Nate gave a hollow laugh, shuddering all the while, and wondered why he couldn't wake up. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair to dream about this, not when he couldn't have it. It would only remind him, when he awoke, of how alone he was. How empty everything, his world, seemed to him. How no matter how much he accomplished, no matter how much good he did, he had no one to share it with.
And it was wrong, all wrong. Why was the other boy being so patient with him? He had never been patient, not at that age. And he had certainly, Nate thought numbly as the boy crossed the space between the beds and set his hands on Nate's shoulders, never been that way to him. Never been that kind.
Not since they had been young at least, before Ryuzaki had left and everything had changed. Not since their family of three had fallen to pieces, and the beginning of Nate's long journey of isolation had truly begun.
And yet, Nate could feel the hands on his shoulders as if they were flesh and blood. He felt one hand move to his head and rub it, thin fingers tangling his hair, while the other moved to his back, pulling him into a tight hug against a bony chest. He let his head fall against the black flannel shirt, felt tears again on his cheeks. It seemed perfect; a perfect replication of the warmest, most precious memories he had.
Nate stifled a sob and waited, wished, to wake up, like he always did. He waited for the scene to dissolve around him, to turn into the dull white walls of his room and workstation.
But it didn't. Seconds passed, then minutes, until he finally pushed the other boy away from him towards the pile of sheets next to him on the bed.
He saw what he expected: bottomless eyes, blue like the ocean; soft features, almost delicate like a woman's; cheek bones not worn by years spent in a street gang; the same lips curved upwards slightly into a smirk that he knew so well.
The face of a fourteen year old boy, nearly fifteen, ready to conquer the world.
Nate shook his head, unable to say anything. Looking at the boy blankly, he forced himself to breathe, and continued to cry, silently.
Then he noticed the scar that ran over the boy's face, from his left eye down to his shoulder, a glaring line of torn and healed skin. A scar that shouldn't have been there, but was all the same, as if it had suddenly appeared as an afterthought. It was a scar the boy hadn't acquired until his last few years of life, physical proof of his impending meeting with death.
"Took you long enough," the other boy said quietly, voice too soft for the words to be crass. Then he smiled shyly, an expression Nate had never seen before on his face, and bowed his head as if in apology. "I waited for you."
Overwhelmed, Nate reached out a trembling hand, and found the other boy's hand now resting limply on his lap. He took it slowly, their fingers interlocking. The boy was warm, and somehow that touch, soft like a lamb's coat, made everything seem complete.
"Mihael . . ."